SAN JOSE -- A cook who stabbed an off-duty bouncer to death during a confrontation downtown has been released from jail after prosecutors declared that he was acting in self-defense, a decision sparked by the revelation that the man who died was also armed with a knife.
The 22-year-old San Jose man who works as a cook at a downtown restaurant may have at some point worked with 26-year-old San Jose resident Ryan Viri, who was well known in the downtown bar and restaurant scene.
Assistant District Attorney Marc Buller, who reviewed the case, said security cameras in the area recorded crucial parts of the interaction, and that the cook, who is 5 feet 9 inches tall, was reacting to the sight of an armed and advancing 6-foot-4-inch Viri.
"We're not saying Mr. Viri was going to stab him, but he had a knife," Buller said. "Self-defense says you have to have a reasonable belief of danger, and (the former suspect) thought the man was going to do imminent harm."
The cook was taken into custody shortly after the early Wednesday morning stabbing. By Friday, he had been released from Santa Clara County jail.
According to witnesses and police, Viri was at Johnny V's bar and night club when the cook entered but not before checking his attache of kitchen knives at the door. Johnny Van Wyk, the bar's namesake owner was among several bar occupants who said the cook was acting erratic and upsetting female patrons, which eventually prompted management to tell him to leave.
The cook complied, got his knives back and started walking west on the north side of Santa Clara Street toward First Street. That's when Viri left the bar and walked quickly after the man who just left, according to witnesses.
A brief fight broke out, and within seconds, Viri was on the ground with a slash wound to his neck. Bar staff and patrons caught up the scene and tried to render aid to Viri, while other witnesses pointed police toward the cook, who ran off toward the SAP Center. He was quickly caught and arrested.
In the following days, Van Wyk and others who knew Viri said they still couldn't explain why he left the bar. But he said the new details do nothing to alleviate their loss.
"At the end of the day, no matter how it happened, we lost an employee, a friend, a beloved member of our family," he said. "We're all still heartbroken."
Van Wyk, who has been a presence downtown for two decades, said he also laments that the death added to what he called an undue stigma of danger on the downtown district, and that he is disappointed in the police response.
Police responded to the stabbing within seconds, but Van Wyk said a quicker response to the 911 call made as the cook was being ejected from his bar could have prevented the tragedy.
"I get that they're short-staffed, I get the budget cuts. But if a (police) cruiser rolled by earlier, this might not have happened," Van Wyk said. "I'm totally behind San Jose police, but this has got to get fixed. It's not the right direction for downtown San Jose."
Contact Robert Salonga at 408-920-5002. Follow him at Twitter.com/robertsalonga.